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Understanding and Treating Eating Disorders



Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that affect millions of individuals worldwide. Causes of Eating disorders vary, and they include psychological and social pressures. Psychological factors include low self-esteem and traumatic experiences such as bullying and intense teasing of body size. Individuals, particularly teenagers with social pressures to achieve an ideal body shape or weight, are vulnerable to Eating Disorders. Research also found that individuals with a family history of eating disorders are at higher risk of developing it.


It is important to note that eating disorders are complex, and individuals with Eating Disorders may transition between different types of eating disorders. It is essential to seek early treatment.


There are several categories of eating disorders, and each has distinct patterns of disordered eating behaviours and associated symptoms. Some of the more common Eating Disorders are:


• Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. Behavioural symptoms include significant food restrictions, leading to extreme weight loss and malnutrition. People with this disorder may engage in excessive exercise, have a preoccupation with calories and food, and exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviours related to eating.


• Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa involves episodes of binge eating, followed by compensatory behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of laxatives or diuretics. Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia may maintain a relatively average body weight or even be slightly above.


• Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge eating disorder is a recurrent episode of consuming large amounts of food quickly, accompanied by a sense of loss of control. Unlike bulimia, individuals with BED do not engage in compensatory behaviours.


Eating Disorders are harmful because an inadequate diet leads to fatigue, impaired decision-making, and slow reaction. Eating Disorders may also aggravate stress, leading to depression, anxiety and self-harm. Eating Disorders also affect a person physically because it harms the heart, digestive system, bones, teeth and mouth, leading to vulnerability to other diseases.


Treatment for eating disorders includes the integration of medication, nutrition and psychotherapy. Inpatient treatment may be necessary for Individuals with severe or complex eating disorders. Consistent psychotherapy sessions are crucial to help individuals with Eating Disorders process the underlying psychological and emotional issues contributing to it. The combination of therapy and nutrition, plus medication when appropriate, provide the support that individuals with eating disorders need to deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological issues that trigger the Eating Disorders, thus increasing their chances of successful recovery.


Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has shown good efficacy when used to treat eating disorders, especially in Bulimia Nervosa. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging the negative thoughts and beliefs that fuel disordered eating behaviours. By helping individuals recognize and modify their unhealthy thinking patterns, CBT can lead to a more positive body image and healthier eating habits.


Other Psychotherapy treatments for Eating Disorders include Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Psychodynamic Therapy.


As one of the triggers of Eating Disorders is the traumatic experience of bullying, intense teasing, comment or comparison of weights, individuals with Eating Disorders may benefit from a consultation with an experienced Trauma Informed Therapist that integrates Internal Family System (IFS), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or Brainspotting with other forms of therapy modality to treat the adverse life experiences which trigger Eating Disorders.


Eating disorders lead to severe physical and psychological consequences, and it is essential to seek professional help. Early intervention and access to appropriate therapy options help to improve the chances of recovery.


Restoring Peace is a private mental health center which provides counselling and psychotherapy services for children, youths and adult individuals with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and other mental health challenges. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or WhatsApp at +65 8889 1848. For periodic updates, we invite you to join our telegram group, https://t.me/restoringpeace.


Keywords: counselling, psychotherapy, mental health, trauma, low self-esteem, bullying, people pleasing, perfectionist, eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, CBT, FBT, EMDR, IFS, brainspotting


Sources:

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-causes-eating-disorders-4121047


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